THE SYNAGOGUE WAS still there: an inconspicuous brick building in a poor part of Shanghai where tower blocks had not yet risen, on the far side of Suzhou Creek. The narrow houses were two storeys at most, with the ground floors given over to grocers and to brothels disguised as hairdressing salons. They were built wall to wall, and the doors and windows opened onto narrow pavements. Not a tree in sight. The only thing special about the neighbourhood was its ongoing resistance to modernity.
The Ohel Moishe synagogue was built by Jews who fled Russia in 1917, after the Bolsheviks seized power. As soon as they could afford it, they moved out to more expensive neighbourhoods, leaving the Ohel Moishe to its fate. In the late 1930s Jews who had been driven out of Europe by the Nazis arrived to renovate and revitalise the building, making it the focal point of their lives.
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